By MARQ BURNETT, ledger-enquirer.com:
Just because Alabama quarterback Blake Sims doesn’t always respond to the criticism, doesn’t mean it doesn’t get back to him. Throughout the offseason, preseason practice and as recently as the Crimson Tide’s two road games at Ole Miss and Arkansas, there were questions about whether Sims could be the Tide’s starting quarterback and lead this team. Through seven games, Sims has helped lead the Tide to a 6-1 record including 2-1 in the SEC heading into a trip to Tennessee on Saturday. “It makes me want to work even harder,” Sims said.
By Cliff Kirkpatrick, timesdaily.com:
Concern about position battles, rankings and execution take a back seat this week when the fourth-ranked Alabama football team travels to Tennessee for the heated SEC cross-divisional rivalry game. Just because the Volunteers are struggling again under second-year coach Butch Jones doesn’t matter. “This game that we have every year with Tennessee is one of the great rivalry games in college football,” coach Nick Saban said. “It certainly has a lot of tradition, and is something that has been very special and means a lot to a lot of our fans. It certainly means a lot to me and our staff and our team.”
By Andrew Gribble, al.com:
Likely cautioned not to provide too many quotable nuggets about Lane Kiffin’s impending return to Tennessee, Alabama’s players have talked more this week about the rivalry in general and less about how this particular installment will affect their offensive coordinator. Junior linebacker Reggie Ragland, though, made a face that said it all. “Whoooo,” Ragland said. “It’s going to be loud up there.” Loud, sure, but that probably won’t be the half of it, and the person that knows that most is Kiffin’s boss. Nick Saban’s gone back twice to places he left on his own terms to the dismay of fans who were shocked and displeased with his departure.
By Matt Brown, Sports On Earth:
I don’t know how else to say this, everyone, but you’ll have to excuse this scorching hot take: Lane Kiffin is doing a decent job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. That’s it. There have been highs (Florida, Texas A&M), there have been lows (Ole Miss, Arkansas) and mostly there have been screencaps. He is doing a passable, decent job over seven games that should not yet inspire strong opinions one way or the other, regardless of how quickly we want to judge him. Nick Saban has him right where he wants him. Until Saturday, that is, when there is no escaping the spotlight.
By DAVID PASCHALL, timesfreepress.com:
Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland’s interception in the final minute of the third quarter last Saturday helped preserve the Crimson Tide’s shutout in their 59-0 trouncing of Texas A&M, but Ragland had been wreaking havoc on the Aggies long before that. And the rest of the Southeastern Conference as well. Ragland, a 6-foot-2, 254-pound junior from Madison, Ala., is the latest emerging standout linebacker in the Nick Saban era. He has compiled 34 tackles during the past four games, including 1.5 tackles for loss against Texas A&M to follow up his career-high 12-tackle performance in the 14-13 defeat of Arkansas.
By Nolan Imsande, Crimson White:
After beating Texas A&M 59-0 on Saturday, Alabama coach Nick Saban expressed his happiness with his team’s performance, but said he does not want to dwell on the victory. “The comfort in this last game, the toughness that we played with, the physical nature of the way we manned the ball game and tackled, all those things are real positive energy type things that we want to build on,” Saban said. “It is really time to turn the page on this last game and turn our attention to Tennessee.”
by David Paschall, timesfreepress.com:
Alabama-Tennessee has not been much of a football rivalry in recent years, but the Crimson Tide insist there will be no shortage of desire this Saturday when they visit Neyland Stadium. The Tide have won seven consecutive games against the Volunteers, a streak that coincides with coach Nick Saban’s arrival at Tuscaloosa in 2007. Alabama has defeated Tennessee by at least 20 points on six of those occasions, and no current Tide player has tasted victory over the Vols by fewer than 31 points. “Personally, I hear a lot about this rivalry from older fans, and I let them motivate us,” Alabama senior left guard Arie Kouandjio said. “A lot of people care about this game around this state and around this program. We know Tennessee is one of our big rivals, and we respect them.”
By Kevin Scarbinsky, al.com:
If Tennessee fans want to take out their anger on an Alabama coach this weekend, vocally or with snarky signage, their target really shouldn’t be Lane Kiffin. It should be Nick Saban. Think about it logically, if logic’s still possible on Rocky Top after seven straight losses on or about the Third Saturday in October. The Alabama head coach has had a lot more to do with UT’s tumble down the mountain than his offensive coordinator has. Kiffin spent one year in Knoxville, and guess what? His 2009 team that went 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the SEC had a better year than the year before and any year since.
By Duane Rankin, Montgomery Advertiser:
Blake Sims has answered the critics and used them as motivation. “It makes me want to work even harder,” said Sims on Monday when asked how have the critics fueled him. “Makes me want to push our guys even harder to that next level. When they think they can’ t go another step, I’m telling them, ‘hey, you got it in you. I know your best. That’s what I need for us to get that national championship.’